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The Tradition Continues

Happers Honda has a new building, but the site still marks three generations of family history and their passion for motorbikes.

Gone are the high swooping wooden beams and the chilling wind from the south-facing workshop doors. Gone too is the clutter of ‘might be useful, one day’ chains, rope, bits of steel and all the leftover parts and pieces that had been gathered over 70 years.

Current owner Brent Happer is the grandson of the business founder, Ivan. Brent took over when his father Robert died two years ago and owns the business in partnership with his wife Debbie and mother Sandra.

“My father and I began planning and preparing to replace the building several years ago. We spent weekends clearing out the workshop and selling off the scrap metal, taking things to the dump.” Sadly, there were no treasures found along the way. “Just a few old tyre and oil signs from the ’60s and ’70s, and to be fair, they were a bit tatty. But we kept them.”

Once the clearing out was done, the workshop itself was packed into several shipping containers and sheds while demolition and construction took place. Five months later, in September last year, the new building was completed. Made of steel and pre-cast concrete panels, it is strong enough to survive further earthquakes and should last for another few generations.

“The building is about the same size as the old, around 400 square metres but the entrance to the workshop faces west – away from the southerly winds. It has better light and more open space, which improves the workflow.”

Happers’ History

The business was started by Ivan Happer in a shed in his back garden back in the 1940s. It quickly evolved into Happers Garage, selling fuel and servicing cars, motorbikes, trucks and tractors to the farmers and others in the central Canterbury area. It’s in a prime spot, alongside the busy State Highway 1.

Robert bought the business from his father in the 1970s, and it became a full Honda dealership in 1977. The fuel pumps were shut off about 20 years ago and Happers has concentrated solely on the sale and servicing of motorbikes and ATVs since then.

Brent says the business is based around the workshop. “Most of our sales are generated out of the repairs. Our growth reflects the growth in local dairy farming and their demand for more and bigger bikes.”

So far, the business has not been hit too badly by the economic effects of the pandemic – but Brent says farmers are expecting a delayed impact, in around six months time.